Bo Bendsneyder clinched the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup with a superb victory at Misano. His season long and only championship rival Fabio Di Giannantonio had to finish in front of the 16-year-old Dutchman to keep his title hopes alive but the Italian 16-year-old slid off on lap 11 of 17 while battling intensely with Bendsneyder.
"It was such a tough race," admitted Bendsneyder. "Fabio made it a really great battle as I thought he would and I was pushing so hard to try and get away from him. Then I saw he had crashed and I had won the Cup but I didn't back off, I wanted to make sure of winning the race."
The contest for second and third was even more thrilling with Raúl Fernández getting the better of Ayumu Sasaki as the two 14-year-olds sorted out the rostrum. For much of the race the pair were looking for a way past 15-year-old Marc Garcia and it was fellow Spaniard Fernández who was the first to get through as the Japanese Sasaki watched.
Then Garcia almost crashed and dropped to a distant fourth, the only consolation a new lap record. Fernández and Sasaki swapped places over the last couple laps in great style. "It was such a fun race," enthused Fernández. "The bike was great but it was very difficult to get past Marc Garcia, I tried and tried, then over the last couple of laps the back was moving around a lot and it was so difficult to finish in front of Sasaki. I really enjoyed it though."
Fernández and Sasaki are first year Rookies, very much looking to take over from Bendsneyder and they had qualified on the front row in the same order as they finished. Sasaki admitted that he didn't make the best use of qualifying third. "No I didn't get off the line well. I think I was back in about seventh when we got to the first corner. Then I struggled to find my rhythm while I saw Bo and the others get away."
"The second half of the race was better and I could catch up but it was very hard to get past Fernández and Garcia. In the end I am on the rostrum, that is OK but I am determined to win in Aragon.
Di Giannantonio had done everything possible to keep his title chances alive. He caught and passed Bendsneyder, slowed the pace enough so that they were almost caught by the chasing group and made good use of the bike improvements over the difficulties that had left him only ninth in Qualifying.
"Yes the bike improved a lot from qualifying, entering corner felt better and I was able to push. But in that change of direction I don't know, I felt I lost rear wheel, tried to catch it but lost both. I am happy though, I did my best, I was battling for the lead positions and I did the maximum. It was the only thing to do.
Though Bendsneyder has the Cup thanks to 8 wins, a second and a third he has no thoughts of a holiday in Aragon. "No, I will be more relaxed but I still want to win two races there. I really have to thank my mum and dad for this as they have worked so hard to put me here.
Ex Rookies Enea Bastianini, Brad Binder, Danny Kent and Niccolò Antonelli, locked out the top four places in Moto3 qualifying as Kent continues to head the Moto3 World Championship from Bastianini by 70 points.
2007 Rookies Cup winner Johann Zarco sits on pole for the Moto2 race and he leads that title chase by 85 points.